May 17, 2011
Even when the partnerships do not overlap, new sex partners put adolescents at increased risk for sexually transmitted infections. In the current study, the authors prospectively examined associations between relationship characteristics, partner change, and subsequent STI during periods of "serial monogamy."
In a longitudinal study, 332 adolescent females were interviewed and tested for gonorrhea, chlamydia, and trichomonas every three months for up to slightly more than six years. The interviews dealt with partner-specific relationship characteristics and sexual behaviors. The unit of analysis was the quarterly interval: a three-month period bracketed by interviews and STI testing. The researchers used a series of mixed regression models, controlling for age, STI at Time 1, and condom nonuse to examine the associations among relationship factors, partner change, and subsequent STI.
The factors that predicted partner change from Time 1 to Time 2 were age, lower relationship quality and lower levels of partner closeness to friends and family. Partner change was associated with acquisition of a new STI at Time 2.
"Although relationship factors did not exert a direct effect on STI at Time 2, they improved partner change-STI model fit. Similar patterns were seen with each organism," the authors wrote. "Relationship factors drive partner change, which in turn contributes to STI acquisition. STI prevention research may need to focus on the relationship antecedents to partner change, in addition to the partner change itself."